Sen. Davis seeks more money for Beaufort County

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 13, 2014 

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, discusses his legislative agenda and some of the main focuses he has for this year while being interviewed at the Island Packet in Bluffton on January 13, 2014.

THEOPHIL SYSLO — Theophil Syslo Buy Photo

State Sen. Tom Davis has been known to hold court on national issues such as Federal Reserve policy and acknowledges that he has mulled runs for statewide offices.

But the Beaufort Republican said when the legislative session resumes Tuesday, expect a greater emphasis on issues directly affecting his home district -- for instance, securing an equitable share of state funding for Beaufort County projects.

"There are a lot of areas where Beaufort County has gotten short shrift in terms of funding over the years," Davis said Monday in a meeting with The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.

With his position on the influential Senate Finance Committee, a seat he secured in December 2012, Davis hopes to continue the fight for more funding for the University South Carolina Beaufort and the Beaufort County School District. He also hopes to bring in more money for the Waddell Mariculture Center in Bluffton and for historic county landmarks.

"I have decided that for the next four years, I am just going to be a state senator ... and focus on where I can have the most influence," Davis said. "Here I can look at what are our needs in terms of dollars and cents in Beaufort County."

Davis also said he will impose a three-term limit upon himself, which means he would run for his seat once more when his current term expires in 2016.

The senator called the Waddell Mariculture Center a "hidden jewel" that does not get the money it needs. Last year he said he obtained $370,000 in recurring funds for operating the center, and he hopes to secure a one-time appropriation of about $1 million for maintenance that he said is past due.

Davis also wants to put more money toward several of the historic landmarks in the county, such as Mitchelville on Hilton Head Island. He wants to fully excavate Santa Elena on Parris Island, a more than 400-year-old European settlement, and preserve these "tremendous cultural treasures."

Another initiative includes accelerating attempts to sell the Port of Port Royal property, which has been shuttered since 2004 and is "damaging Port Royal and damaging people's lives," he said. The S.C. State Ports Authority has had several unsuccessful offers for the $22.5 million, 317-acre site.

Davis said he wants to enact a deadline to sell the property -- imparting a sense of urgency for the Ports Authority to move it -- and sell the port at auction if the deadline isn't met. He also wants the Ports Authority to consider dividing the property into separate parcels to attract more buyers.

Among Davis' other priorities for the 2014 session:

  • Military -- With Base Realignment and Closure sessions looming in 2015, lawmakers have passed several quality-of-life bills highlighted by the U.S. Department of Defense, but others are still pending. Davis hopes to pass the pending bills.
  • Wind and hail insurance -- Davis said the models used to determine insurance premiums inflate the risk of insuring South Carolina's coastal properties, driving up the cost of premiums. He wants to ensure the catastrophe models used to determine rates use accurate variables, and he hopes to further reduce premiums by attracting more insurance companies to do business in the state.
  • Trash and landfills -- Davis said he will continue to oppose legislation that could eliminate local governments' ability to control where trash is dumped.
  • Jasper Port -- Davis said he hopes to stir up movement on building a Jasper County port because of the economic growth it will bring.

Video: State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort 2014 (4:10)

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, discusses his legislative agenda and some of the main focuses he has for this year while being interviewed at the Island Packet offices in Bluffton on Jan. 13, 2014.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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